Conor Kerr has won a ReLit Award for his novel, Avenue of Champions.This comes on the heels of the announcement that the book was shortlisted for the 46th Annual First Novel Award, in which authors published by Canadian indies dominated. The ReLit Awards have been described as the “country’s pre-eminent literary prize recognizing independent presses” (Globe and Mail).
Avenue of Champions (Nightwood Editions, 2021) is a novel about Daniel, a young Métis man, searching for a way to exist in a world of violence and systemic racism. Hitting obstacles at every turn—whether in the child welfare system, at university or in government jobs, he observes and learns from the lived realities of his family members, friends and teachers. The narrative unfolds through stories told from the perspectives of various people in Daniel’s life, including: Granny, a moonshiner turned pot grower; Charlie, Daniel’s hardened yet big-hearted brother; and Jason, a boy that Daniel lived with in foster care.
Conor Kerr (he/him) is a Métis/Ukrainian educator, writer and harvester. He is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, part of the Edmonton Indigenous community and is descended from the Lac Ste. Anne and Fort Des Prairies Métis communities and the Papaschase Cree Nation. His Ukrainian family settled in Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. Conor works as the Executive Director of Indigenous Education & Services at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ (Langara College) and lives in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam First Nations. In 2019, Conor received The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize and in 2021 The Malahat Review's Long Poem prize. His writing has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologized in Best Canadian Stories 2020, Best Canadian Poetry 2020. His first two books were published in 2021, a poetry collection An Explosion of Feathers and debut novel Avenue of Champions. He has a forthcoming poetry collection tentatively titled Old Gods for publication with Nightwood Editions in 2023.
The ReLit Awards are given to books published by independent presses and they represent the very best of Canadian literature published in a given year. Shortlists and winners in three categories—poetry, short fiction and novels—are made public throughout the month of May. The ReLits were founded in 2000 by Newfoundland filmmaker and author Kenneth J. Harvey and are now run by Katherine Alexandra Harvey. ReLit is short for Regarding Literature, Reinventing Literature and Relighting Literature. This year, three other Nightwood Editions authors were shortlisted for ReLit Awards: Tara Gereaux in the novel category for Saltus (2021); Marion Quednau in the short fiction category for Sunday Drive to Gun Club Road (2021); and Dallas Hunt in the poetry category for Creeland (202). Nightwood Editions also published the ReLit Award winner in the novel category last year: Fake It So Real (2020) by Susan Sanford Blades.